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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Why do so many magicians do the classic tricks? (39 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Dick Oslund
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On Dec 26, 2017, Mr. Woolery wrote:
Regarding kilts, I may be American, but I grew up as the son of bagpipers, I’m a piper, my kids are pipers. My usual answer depends on who asks! If it is a woman in a skirt, I pause for a moment and then ask if we are trading information. Otherwise, I raise one eyebrow and say “socks.”

Classics are classic for a reason. Magicians who perform them value those reasons.

Patrick


Up in Alaska, I THINK that I might wear (very) LONG socks!!! (I'm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I can drive 500 MILES, SOUTH, and, enter Canada, at Windsor, Ontario!) I KNOW what winter IS!

Yes! It appears that some of us "value those reasons!"

Because I worked, mainly, in the LYCEUM "area" of the business, as long as I developed "fresh" PRESENTATIONS for the classics, I had no problems with "Seen that before!".

A good example: Many years ago, Karrell Fox and I had had a long discussion regarding Die Boxes, Hippity Hop Rabbits, and, similar "sucker" tricks. We agreed that, the old "Gotcha" presentations, should be forgotten. They are, generally, used, by performers who only scan the original instruction sheets, and do only what is written in them.

We agreed that a "soft" sucker presentation, could be OK, if the performer put himself in the position of having been "SURPRISED", too, when he first saw the trick.

I wrote,in my book, a piece about the three types of sucker tricks, and, how to present them, which would result in a friendly laugh, and, APPLAUSE!
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danaruns
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On Dec 20, 2017, mndude wrote:
Maybe I have not been seeing the right magicians, but it seems like so many you just the well known classic tricks, linking rings, torn newspaper, disappearing handkerchiefs, Etc.


After reading through this, I'm not sure I truly understand the OP. Is it the props you have a problem with? The rings, newspapers, etc.? Is it their function and effect? Linking and unlinking, torn and restored, disappearing and reappearing? Or is it the presentation you have a problem with, and what you deem tired and old you call "classical"?

There is a place for the "classical" presentations. Just like there is a place for symphony orchestras, Beatles cover bands, and Shakespeare in the Park.

The props are just props. It's what you do with them that matters. It's what of yourself you infuse into them that makes it either old and tired or fresh and new.

The effects are wide across many props, and are manifestations of the apparently impossible. They are the essence of magic. Whether you are linking Chinese rings or wedding rings borrowed from audience members, the effect is the same. The props can change and the effects remain the same. The effects can change while the props remain the same (ever seen linking cards or linking dollars?).

20% of magic is the props and effects. 80% is YOU. Those who do the "classical" presentations may have a particular love for them, as does my friend and teacher, Dale Salwak. Or the performer may not have much of themselves to put into them. To the untrained eye, those may appear to be the same, though they are not. But, as someone mentioned, no one would call Pop Haydn's ring routine "classical" or old or tired.

So I still don't understand what the objection is. Perhaps, in the end, the objection is that so many magicians do basic routines devoid of the performer's own personality. That may be valid. There is a need for newness in magic. The art is getting stale, and is being overcome by technology. We require innovation to survive and thrive. But there is also a place for the timeless works of masters, and that includes the classical presentations using time-tested props and effects steeped in history.

I am left still wondering precisely what it is the OP objects to.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Terrible Wizard
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I wonder what a non-classic prop is? An I-phone?

I mean, if we get rid of cups, cards, coins, rope, cigarettes, wallets, paper and pencils, wands, bags, dice, matches, bands, tarot, rings, string, boxes, paddles, handkerchiefs, spongeballs, photos, esp cards, hats, rabbits, eggs, books, shells, balls, etc etc, what are we actually left with?
magicjack1977
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Quote:
On Dec 20, 2017, mndude wrote:
Maybe I have not been seeing the right magicians, but it seems like so many you just the well known classic tricks, linking rings, torn newspaper, disappearing handkerchiefs, Etc.

One only needs to browse through the topics here to realize there are literally thousands of Wonderful tricks and effects. Why do so many magicians insist on performing so many classics?


I think there is level of mystique and romanticism with a classic trick that newer effects cannot reproduce. There is just something comforting about a well done performance of a classic like the linking rings or cut and restored ropes that harkens most people back to what Drew them to magic in the first place. Something being "classic" isn't just about performing a well worn cups and balls or vanishing silks routine. It's the performance and the image it produces. Most magicians have moved away from the classic tie and tails stage costumes and swami decor for more modern attire and props, but I (like a lot of other would be prestidigitators I'd imagine) gravitate towards that old world, vaudevillian style that harkens back to the days of Houdini or Thurston. There's something soothing about watching someone like Michael Ammar vs. someone like Chris Angel. Classics are time-tested and still never cease to amaze when done correct. Where newer effects aim for shock value and that "WTF?" moment, classics amaze and intrigue without being overbearing.
Julie
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A "classic" trick can become "new" if the audience has not viewed it previously and/or the presentation is varied & a "new" trick can become a "classic" if structured and performed well.

Either is enjoyable for BOTH the audience and the performer. That's the point in performing classic (proven) Magic.

Julie
funsway
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I like both Linking Rings and Ring on Rope "classic" effects. Combined they are even better. Using Linking Hearts make them both seem new again.

but now I have added a method for presenting the four rings tied with the cord in a double loop and bow.
This is untied by a spectator to see how it is done. Then the loops and knot is retied by the spectator and ends held.

The rings are now removed one at a time, leaving the knotted rope. That is untied by the spectator and I do some Ring on Rope.
Finally, I do some Linkings Rings with no need for the false count to show them separate.

Magicians present said they did not expect me to do Linking Rings after the opening.

The point is that because these effects are classic and known, the expectations of the audience allows for better magic when the results are different.
It takes very little to make an effect seem different if you present it as something different.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Herr Brian Tabor
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I would suggest better questions to ask would be "Why are the classics regarded as classics? Why do they continue to be used when other effects come and go? What characteristics of the classics make them good?"
Terrible Wizard
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Good question, Tabor.

Another way of rephrasing the OP might be: how can I distinguish my tricks/act/routines from other magicians - how can I be different and better?
Luke Jonas
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If its not broken don't fix it!
funsway
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Before Christmas my wife was playing carols on harp to entertain strolling families enjoying the lights and displays in small shops.
Later, she mover indoors to a newly opened tavern for hot chocolate. She began playing and singing along with the harp and added
her 1969 Martin 12 string guitar to the mix. Not busy, just a couple of tables sharing the fun.

One man, about 40 came up with wadded $5.00 bill. "I didn't know a guitar could be that loud," he said. I looked perplexed.
He continued, "I've never heard a guitar without an amplifier. No one who can sing like that either -- I mean alone and authentic."

So, what is the chances anyone in you next audience has ever seen a classic magic effect live, or any magic effect?
Even those with some experience with a TV or YouTube myopic glimpse may never have experienced the magic.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Dec 20, 2017, mndude wrote:
Maybe I have not been seeing the right magicians, but it seems like so many you just the well known classic tricks, linking rings, torn newspaper, disappearing handkerchiefs, Etc.

One only needs to browse through the topics here to realize there are literally thousands of Wonderful tricks and effects. Why do so many magicians insist on performing so many classics?


You just described my act! Smile

Classics usually become classics because they are practical with good angles in performance, portability, and a clear effect. The method is usually very strong and difficult to discover.

The trick is to find a way to make the classics new and interesting one more time.
funsway
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[quote]On Jan 8, 2018, Pop Haydn wrote:
Quote:
On Dec 20, 2017, mndude wrote:

interesting one more time.


One of your best ever comments, methinks. This may be the first magic show for some in the audience, and the last for others.

Echoing Olivier when interviewed about the 4,000th performance of a play. He was asked if he ever got bored doing "the same old thing."

This great actor replied that he had performed a new play 4,000 times. Someone in the audience did not understand the plot or appreciate live theater.
It was his job to make the play alive for them, to allow that person to see themselves in the characters and ponder on their own life.

Yes, I would equate Whit with Olivier in some ways. But remember, it took decades for Pop to evolve - to become a classic himself.
Today, there is too much of the buy the latest and popular (package arrive today and perform tomorrow)

If the classics seem stale, then it may because the performers lack the skill or diligence to make the effect alive for the audience.
Magic is a form of communication. You can only communicate that which is within yourself.

There are, of course, situations where performing a classic effect is a waste of time (lack of attention, competition with other activities, etc)
If so, perhaps performing ANY magic effect is a waste of time - or stick to what Al Schneider calls "clown magic.

It is easy to do tricks. It is creating the experience of "must be magic" that is difficult.

Thanks, Pop for wading in.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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rboyd
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As a newcomer to magic the classics give me something to aspire to and are a good benchmark for my progress.

I know what a good x act should looks like and as interested as I am in the many new tricks that can be purchased they do not give me the same sense of "aha I can finally do that!"

That being said, as an avid viewer of P&T Cool Us, I always wonder why anyone would go on this show with a classic routine.
WitchDocChris
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On Jan 19, 2018, rboyd wrote:
I always wonder why anyone would go on this show with a classic routine.


Because they understand that fooling P&T has nothing to do with why that show exists.
Christopher
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Stanyon
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I think Alan Wakeling said it best, "Do not avoid the classics. If you perform them competently, you will be guaranteed success!"

FWIW

Cheers! Smile
Stanyon

aka Steve Taylor

"Every move a move!"

"If you've enjoyed my performance half as much as I've enjoyed performing for you, then you've enjoyed it twice as much as me!"
coachawsm
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First of all I am quite new to magic myself and I want to make clear, that I don't want to be disrespectful with the following thigns I am saying.

I think the reasons why a lot of magicians perform these old tricks is, because they have not evolved with the nowadays audience. Life becomes faster and faster nowadays and the attention spans shorter and shorter. Also due to the Internet (Social Media, Google and co) also laymen stumble across card tricks here and there and definitely do understand some slights. Hell so many people know about the one of the most fundamental card light, the DL (the reasons why I myself started to perform the Stuart Gordon DL, cause it seems less obbvious. Also due to those medias they also see "amazing" things each day and are not impressed that easily anymore.

Problem is... at least to me it seems that way: a ot of magicians haven't evolved the same way and still think they can impress with linking rings, ropes or some self working card tricks. Yes, there might still be an audience for that, but as long as you don't want to perform in a school for kids (that do not have smartphones yet) or all inclusive clubs for old people, I think it is time for a lot to step up their game.

That said: It is still important to study the classics. You cannot play the piano without studying Mozart first.
funsway
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On review of all posts, I like danaruns' "manifestations of the apparently impossible" and will steal the phrase.

for coachawsm I ask if you are familiar with "illusion of knowledge" and "introspection fallacy" and new discoveries in "entertainment psychology?" (old farts study such things)

Accepting your perceptions as true, then there are new opportunities for "manifestations of the apparently impossible."
Some of those can be based on simple props and well known objects. A kid thinking they know how something is done is just another "garden path" down which they can stumble."

Short attention span is a problem, easily solved by not performing for those folks at all, or viewing that as an opportunity.

Life is not moving any faster that it ever has. People may choose to fill their short life span with more data and less ability to rationally process it,
but any claim of "I don't have time" is an illusion. Yes, the predictability of people's reactions is changing rapidly, and with it cultural bias.
Life is about making choices - always has been. The refusal to make reasoned choices is also a choice. This happens one second at a time, no faster and no slower.

Now, I can accept that many today feel completely overwhelmed by the rapidity of change and even confuse this with progress.
They may choose to "not pay attention" as an excuse for not making decision or taking responsibility for their actions. That is a choice.

I question whether or not anything seen on "those media" is "amazing" in the way that "experiencing life" can be amazing.

Interesting thought about magicians evolving. To me, everything you describe is about society de-evolving.
Never thought I was trying to impress anyone when I demonstrate inexplicable phenomena or the value of getting to work on time (another impossibility for many)

Are these kids looking to be impressed? I'll have to think on that one.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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coachawsm
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On Jan 24, 2018, funsway wrote:
On review of all posts, I like danaruns' "manifestations of the apparently impossible" and will steal the phrase.

for coachawsm I ask if you are familiar with "illusion of knowledge" and "introspection fallacy" and new discoveries in "entertainment psychology?" (old farts study such things)

Accepting your perceptions as true, then there are new opportunities for "manifestations of the apparently impossible."
Some of those can be based on simple props and well known objects. A kid thinking they know how something is done is just another "garden path" down which they can stumble."

Short attention span is a problem, easily solved by not performing for those folks at all, or viewing that as an opportunity.

Life is not moving any faster that it ever has. People may choose to fill their short life span with more data and less ability to rationally process it,
but any claim of "I don't have time" is an illusion. Yes, the predictability of people's reactions is changing rapidly, and with it cultural bias.
Life is about making choices - always has been. The refusal to make reasoned choices is also a choice. This happens one second at a time, no faster and no slower.

Now, I can accept that many today feel completely overwhelmed by the rapidity of change and even confuse this with progress.
They may choose to "not pay attention" as an excuse for not making decision or taking responsibility for their actions. That is a choice.

I question whether or not anything seen on "those media" is "amazing" in the way that "experiencing life" can be amazing.

Interesting thought about magicians evolving. To me, everything you describe is about society de-evolving.
Never thought I was trying to impress anyone when I demonstrate inexplicable phenomena or the value of getting to work on time (another impossibility for many)

Are these kids looking to be impressed? I'll have to think on that one.


Hey Funsway.

Thanks for your feedback. You definitely have valid points and you do of course have more experience than I do so I would never say you are right or wrong or anything Smile
One sentence of your post I really loved is: "Interesting thought about magicians evolving. To me, everything you describe is about society de-evolving." - I 1000% get what you mean by that and you are right.
Though "evolving" to me (though I am not an English native so I just got it wrong) doesn't necessarily mean "in a positive" way... maybe I should have used the phrase "changing".. and like it or not, I think if someone is an entertainer of any kind, he needs to adjust to that change in order to keep his audience, as the people that might book the pro will always be looking for somebody who can entertain their viewers.. so not sure if it is really up to the magician. In a small circle obviously you can choose your audience and then it is up to you of course.

Again.. this is just my view. I think since I am "new" I still see it a bit as a fan/viewer/audience and not with the eyes of a magician. In my opinion this is a bit of an advantage cause I know what I, as a magic fan, would want to see.
Dick Oslund
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Interesting comment coachawsm! I've been "at" this for 70 years, about 20 as a part time pro. and the rest as a full time pro. I've been 'on the road', all over North America, making a very nice living, entertaining for 50 years.

I don't do the DL! I don't even do the "21"!. Although, I've known most of the "world class" cardicians (Marlo, Elmsley, Jay, Racherbaumer, Dai Vernon, "et al".

While I specialize in the Lyceum field, (all levels of schools, including senior highs, and colleges, I've also worked the Magic Castle, trade shows. and, a whole bunch of club dates, from locals to national conventions, and a few national magicians conventions.

That's enough "credentials!

I'll insert here, my "favorite" quotation on "tricks". S.H. Sharpe, was far from the world's greatest performer, but, he understood magic.

"Those who think that magic consists of doing tricks, are strangers to magic. Tricks are only the crude residue from which the lifeblood of magic has been drained." --S.H. Sharpe

Here's another "quote" from my mentors (professional magicians) from the '40s::: "It aint WHAT ya do, it's HOW ya do it!"

>>>>>>>>>>>>>PRESENTATION is what makes a magic trick, ENTERTAINING!<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<(Magic is NOT INHERENTLY ENTERTAINING.)

The FIRST trick, other than what was in the library books when I was starting out (late '30s) that I learned from a professional magician (in 1941) was the, "To untie a knotte with werds" first printed in Scot's "Discovery of Witchcraft", about 500 years ago! It took me a few years to learn the "basic three things"!!!

1. Learn how the trick is done.

2, Learn how to do it.

3 Learn how to do it so that it ENTERTAINS people.

It's known to some of the new guys as, the "Slydini Knots".

I have worked hospitality suites (trade shows) and, knocked the socks off of some rather intelligent people with a basic coin vanish. (It killed the young guys at the CASTLE!

G.W. Hunter's "Impossible Knot", (with 4 feet of rope) has amazed, and amused, top management people, for years.

It aint WHAT ya do, it's HOW ya do it"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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coachawsm
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Hey Dick. Amazing credentials. I have only a few card routines in bars to offer, so again, you guys definitely know what you are talking about..

Agree with the Slydini Knots for sure.
I feel a bit different about certain things though. Yes, it definitely is a must that the magician knows how to entertain the people.
But for me personally, no matter how good the entertainer, if I don't care about a certain trick, prop or routine, then I am simply not interested.
For example I love David Williamson and his work with a rope and a ring from a magicians point of view and I think we can agree he is an outstanding performer.
Still, as a viewer or part of a crowd I don't really care about it. And beeing to a lot of shows and really spending so many hours of watching things like that, to me it always seems like
ropes, (big) rings etc get the least reactions... maybe it is because it is using uncommon props that do not surround people in their real life? I mean the first thing people say is "that rope looks weird.. who has a rope like that" or "the ring must be gimmick" (even it's not)... I mean even if 90% are amazing, if somebody even thinks he figured out 10% of it he is not impressed anymore. I just get the feel that people nowadays want to see more things with cards, coins or other every day objects.
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